Q: What type of fatty acids do I consume in my diet?
A: DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) are vitally important fatty acids consumed as part of a balanced diet. These fats can’t be made by our bodies, but are needed by our cells to develop and maintain healthy functions. To obtain sufficient DHA and EPA, we need a diet rich in alpha linoleic acid (a short chain fatty acid found in vegetables, fruits and beans), which only converts at around 5% efficiency to EPA (not DHA); or - more preferably - we need to consume EPA and DHA directly from seafood or supplements.
A healthy balanced diet also implies a balance between the types of fat consumed. Some types of fat compete with others to reduce the health benefits. For example, balanced consumption of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is essential to enable us to benefit from the health benefits of omega-3 fats.
The ideal balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fat varies from between 1:1 to 4:1. However, a typical diet today is so rich in omega-6 fats that the ratio can be between 10:1 and 25:1. This means that for us to achieve a healthy balanced diet we need to decrease our intake of omega-6 fats, and increase our intake of long chain omega-3 fats (which come from marine sources, salmon, tuna, anchovies, etc), or from nutritional supplements.
Q: Why are omega-3 fatty acids important to human health?
A: Omega-3 fatty acids positively impact all major organs and systems in our bodies through development and maintenance, including our brains, cardiovascular (heart, lungs and circulation) and immune systems.
DHA and EPA are the most-clinically studied omega-3 fatty acids and their positive effects are widely documented. For infants cognition was shown to improve as DHA consumption increased; the inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids is in fact mandated for infant formula products. While for adults, links between DHA consumption and brain development as well as maintenance of normal brain function are well documented. Moreover, research has shown that cognitive impairment and mental health disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s) can be improved through an omega-3 rich diet. Additionally, incidences of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, including diabetes, arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, irritable bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis were shown to be reduced when a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids was consumed. Links between increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption and reduced rates of cardiovascular diseases (linked to a reduction in triglycerides in people with type II diabetes) have also been reported.
The beneficial health effects of omega-3 DHA and EPA are supported by a growing body of scientific research which advocates a balanced omega-6-to-omega-3 intake, and increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids to promote positive physical and mental health.
Q: Are all omega-3 fatty acids equal in their benefits to human health?
A: No. DHA and EPA, the long chain omega-3s are the most studied omega-3 fatty acids. Research provides the strongest link between their consumption and significant health benefits, compared to all other fatty acids. The direct consumption of omega-3 DHA and EPA provides the most health benefits.
Q: How much DHA should I take?
A: Unfortunately there’s no simple answer to this question. Recommended intake differs based on age and region. The European Food Safety Authority recommends children (younger than 2 years) consume 100 mg EPA/DHA daily, and that older children, as well as adults, consume 250 mg EPA/DHA per day. The American Heart Association recommends adults consume 500 mg or more EPA/DHA per day, and Canada’s Minister of National Health and Welfare recommends adults consume 1200 to 1600 mg omega-3 fatty acids per day.
GOED (the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s) has produced a summary document on these recommendations, which can be found here.
Q: What are the sources of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA?
A: Alpha linolenic acid, converted at about 5% efficiency to EPA, is found in many plant based food products, vegetables, fruits and beans.
Long chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, with their wealth of associated health benefits, are found in seafood.
Fish do not produce omega-3 fatty acids naturally. They acquire them from their diet, much like humans, and accumulate them in flesh, muscle and other tissues. Algae are the real origin of omega-3 fats in all seafood products.
Algal omega-3 fatty acids - Mara’s innovation in the omega-3 field is in going straight to the source, cutting out the fish. We isolated a natural alga that is a prolific producer of omega-3 fatty acids from the coastal waters of Atlantic Canada, and we now cultivate it in enclosed bioreactors for the sole purpose of producing omega-3 fatty acids. This innovation dramatically reduces negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems, making Mara’s offering more sustainable. Mara`s algal omega-3 fatty acids are a drop-in replacement for fish oil in human nutrition applications, offering a sustainable (and vegan) alternative.
Q: You mention sustainability, how are algal omega-3`s better than fish oil?
A: Since the dawn of humankind, we have fished oceans, lakes and rivers for food. In recent decades the world’s population has grown and demand for seafood can no longer be met by fishing alone. Current fishing practices are not sustainable. Aquaculture has developed to fill the gap between seafood demand and supply. However, farmed fish still require omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. The industry standard is to source these from non-edible fish products and plant-based alternative (the short chain omega-3 fatty acid alpha linoleic acid). Neither is a perfect solution.
Pioneering aquaculture companies have begun replacing fish and plant omega-3s with those derived from algae. Algae-derived omega-3 fatty acids (besides being vegan, kosher and halal certified, and free of environmental contaminants), also offer an alternative source of the nutrient while reducing environmental impact (when compared to plant and fish derived omega-3s). Algal omega-3 fatty acids are a sustainable alternative to fish oil.
Q: How does Mara make omega-3 DHA?
A: Mara employs a proprietary, highly prolific, non-genetically modified, algae strain, dubbed T18. Focused research and development has allowed Mara’s scientists to build a highly efficient production process for the growth of this strain, with maximized omega-3 productivity. This is a fermentation process, similar to the production of beer. It’s performed in a closed system under carefully controlled conditions.
After production, omega-3 fatty acids are separated from the production media using a patented solvent-free process. Mara’s Algal omega-3 fatty acids are completely natural and have never been exposed to harsh conditions or solvents. This means they are of the highest possible quality.
Q: What MAKES MARA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER OMEGA-3 PRODUCERS?
The efficiency of Mara’s production process means that our Algal omega-3 product is extremely cost competitive. Mara also has an active research and development program keeping it on the cutting edge of the biotechnology world and continually bringing innovation to the marketplace. Mara’s R&D focuses on reducing cost, reducing environmental impact and developing new products to use in new applications (wherever less effective alternatives can be displaced).
Innovations in Mara’s algal omega-3 products include, a highly prolific, non-GMO omega-3 production strain, the ability to produce crude oil that remains liquid at room temperature through changes in the production process alone, and an extraction process performed in the absence of solvents. We have also demonstrated that food grade commercial co-products can be efficiently converted into algal omega-3 fatty acids, offering further improvements in food security and environmental impact.
Mara’s R&D program also provides protection to commercial and developing technologies through a broad and strong patent portfolio encompassing all aspects of the production process. Currently, Mara holds over 15 patent families filed in many world jurisdictions, and its portfolio includes several granted and multiple pending patents. Our patents cover the entire process from the strain, fermentation technology, solvent free extraction process, through to the composition of final products.
Mara is also advantaged by its work on the regulatory side of product supply. Mara has obtained regulatory approvals globally (including in Europe and the USA) for supplements, foods and infant formula. This makes Mara one of a very small number of producers able to sell product into these key markets.